Did you know that in the United States it is not permitted by the FDA to just add any old ingredient into your cosmetic for the purposes of changing color?In fact, of all the ingredients in cosmetics colorants are the mostcarmine-beetle highly regulated. This is most likely because historically colorants have also been the most dangerous.

Anyway, the only colorants you are allowed to use in the United States are laid out by the FDA and you can find a list of approved cosmetic colorants here. If you are a “natural” formulator there are only a few on the list of approved colorants that you would be allowed to use. They are as follows.

Annatto
beta-Carotene
Caramel
Carmine
Chlorphyllin Cu complex
Guaiazulene
Henna
Guanine

Annatto

This is a yellow to orange colorant derived from a shrub that grows in a number of places in the southern hemisphere. It can be used in the US, EU and China.

beta-Carotene

Another yellow to orange pigment that can be used for cosmetics around the world. It’s derived from a fungus and exhibits good stability.

Caramel

A brown colorant that comes from the burning of sugars like sucrose, dextrose, malt syrup, molasses, etc. It’s highly stable and can be used for formulating products around the world.

Carmine

This is a bright, red colorant which has a bluish shade. It is derived from female conchineal beetles that are collected primarily in Peru. The color can be used in cosmetic products around the world. It was traditionally used to dye textiles. Carmine is also one of the brightest of all natural colorants.

Chlorophyl Cu Complex

This is a green colorant obtained from alfalfa. To get the final product it is reacted with copper to replace the naturally occurring magnesium found in the molecule. It is approved throughout the world.

Guaiazulene

This ingredient is a blue colorant that is derived from the chamomile plant. It is legal in the US but is not allowed in products in the EU or China.

Henna

This is a brown dye derived from the Henna plant. It primarily comes from India. This natural colorant is allowed in the US but not in the EU or China. However, it is specifically prohibited for use in coloring eyelashes and eyebrows due to its known ability to cause irritation.

Guanine

This colorant is derived from herring fish scales and has a purplish color. It is used in all types of cosmetic products. It is approved for use in the US but not in EU or China. This is primarily because it hasn’t been economically feasible to go through the testing to get it approved in these countries.

Outside the US

While the colors listed are the natural colorants allowed in the US for cosmetics, there are a number of ones approved outside the US so if you are a natural formulator in these markets you might be able to use some of the following.

Lycopene – reddish / orange color derived from tomatoes
Vegetable Carbon – Black color derived from burnt vegetable matter
Curcumin – Yellow color derived from the spice turmeric
Capsanthin / Capsorubin – Orange color derived from sweet red peppers. Commonly known as paprika
Canthaxanthin – yellow – red color derived from mushrooms or shrimp.

There you have it. The color choices for a natural formulator are limited but you do have some choices.

Author

Perry Romanowski has over 18 years experience formulating products to solve consumer problems in the personal care and cosmetic industry. His primary focus has been on hair & hair related products. He is also an author who has published extensively about the field of cosmetic science. He is currently Vice President of Brains Publishing which specializes in science education. Perry received his B.S. in Chemistry from DePaul University. He has written and edited numerous articles and books, teaches Society of Cosmetic Chemists continuing education classes in cosmetic science, and is the primary author at ChemistsCorner.com a website dedicated to training current and future cosmetic scientists. His latest book project is the third edition of Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry published by Allured. Perry can be reached through his website ChemistsCorner where he is available for consulting about cosmetic formulating, testing, and Internet solutions.

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